I was rather taken aback last Friday when Johnny I’Anson tried to call me Jezza on Radio Leeds.
Oh dear that looks like name dropping. Johnny’s a great journalist and presenter, but he’s hardly an A list celebrity is he? I wasn’t meaning to name drop, but he did get me thinking about my name.
I’ve never really liked Jeremy as a name, but I’ve never seemed to hate it enough to change it. Of course now we have the revenge of the Jeremys – Mssrs Paxman, Clarkson, Hardy and, of course, Corbyn – but it used to be deeply unfashionable.
My middle name is Michael and I did consider adopting it when I came to university in Leeds. Mike Morton – it’s got a ring to it don’t you think? A no-nonsense, gets things done sort of a name. But fatally I hesitated and then the moment was gone. You see I couldn’t face explaining to people that yes, last week I was Jeremy, but now I’m Mike.
If I’d gone with it from the moment I stepped off the train it might have worked. I would still have had to explain to my family, and old friends when I went home, but as my parents had moved, university turned out to be more or less a clean break. Anyway I didn’t do it.
So what’s wrong with Jeremy? When I was growing up it seemed very middle class and a bit soft. Sure enough when I bowled up at a London comprehensive I had the mick taken. There was song that I imagine originated on the football terraces. To the tune of The Teddy Bears Picnic, it went:
“For Jeremy the Sugar Puff bear has bought his boots and cropped his hair, today’s the day that Jeremy joined the skinheads.”
Andy Spong sung it loudly whenever he saw me. He did it to wind me up and he succeeded, although I hope never let it show. I was just your average unconfident, podgy, adolescent.
What about shortening it then. Well in London the standard shortening is to –el – Tel for Terry (as in El Tel Terry Venables) Gal for Gary and … Jel for Jeremy. I hated Jel. My uncle called me Jerry – I hated that too. There are alternatives, but no one ever called me Jem or Jez and anyway they’re not much better than Jeremy.
My mother was a very organised person and with four kids abbreviated us to R, T, B and J. It was a useful shorthand when referring to us in letters or leaving a note on the fridge. R couldn’t be shortened further and T has a common shortening, but B and J stuck. I knew I was in trouble with mum if she ever addressed me as Jeremy. So my family call me J as does my Other Half and a few friends.
So why didn’t just adopt J or Jay? Once you write it down it has connotations. In the seventies, the only Jay I was aware of was Jay Osmond and I didn’t want to be associated with those teeny boppers.
The older I get the more I think so what if I’m not keen on Jeremy as a name? It’s the name people know me as and it would confuse people to call myself anything else.
So I’m sorry Johnny, or Johnners, John-Boy; I don’t want to be known as Jezza on radio. Jeremy will do fine.
I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.